Customer Self-Service Portal: The Present & Future of Customer Support

Customer Self-Service Portal- The Present & Future of Customer Support

The advent of self-service is transforming customer support operations in an unprecedented way across the business landscape. On-demand support channels such as customer self-service portals empower customers with the resources they require to solve their pain points as and when they arise. 

Research reveals that 66% of the customers prefer self-service options before contacting a real person. 

This speaks volumes about why self-service portals are the need of the hour. 

Self-service is easy, convenient, and accessible 24×7. It makes sense for customers to resolve an issue on their own via a self-service portal than indulge in time-consuming conversations over the phone or emails. 

While customers are delighted with instant services, your support staff, on the other hand, is relieved of repetitive requests. 

Employing a self-service help center is indeed a win-win for you and your customers.

Learn about self-service portals in detail, along with why they are important and how they can be created in this blog. 

What Is a Customer Self-Service Portal?

A customer self-service portal empowers customers to address a majority of basic issues on their own. Using a guided set of paths and directions, customers can search the solutions for issues that are bothering them and get instant answers. 

The biggest advantage of such a self-service help center is that it doesn’t require customers to wait for someone to resolve their issues. They can get assistance and solutions as and when they need them. 

Self-service options for customers are on the rise and will continue to do so. With customers becoming used to the one-click culture, they are likely to prefer the easy and quick self-service route to time-consuming and frustration-inducing paths of emails and calls. 

A customer self-service portal is an all-in-one platform comprising knowledge base articles, how-to guides, video tutorials, and much more. You can also use the portal to raise tickets for unresolved issues or post questions in the community forum to get answers from fellow customers facing similar challenges as yours. 

Why Is Customer Self-Service Portal Indispensable for Your Business?

Here is an interesting fact that will prove the importance of customer self-service portals. 

More than 50% of customers abandon their shopping journey on a website or app if they do not get ready solutions to their concerns. These disgruntled customers don’t even wait for an agent to help them find the solution and complete the purchase. Lack of instant access to information is a poor experience that ultimately urges them to leave your website in disappointment. 

This means that your website and everything you present in it acts as customer support channels. That’s why having self-service options on your website is essential to provide customers with heightened convenience. 

In the digital age, customers need control over their decisions, and that includes the customer support process as well. Gone are the days when they would happily wait for hours on a call to explain their problem and wait patiently as your agents toss through files and folders to find the answer.

Today’s customers are impatient and want everything at the click of a button. These self-service-loving customers want things their way, and if you fail to provide that, they will not take a moment to switch to your competitors. 

A self-service portal dedicated to your customers is an asset, not just for customers but for your business too. On the one hand, it keeps customers delighted with instant service, and on the other, it takes some pressure off your agents who have to deal with trivial issues day after day. 

Notable Benefits of Customer Self-Service Portal

Gartner predicts that 85% of customer service interactions will begin with self-service by 2022. 

This means you have no choice but to embrace this change by employing a self-service portal. It’s a simple change, but it can have a massive impact on the customer support experience. 

Here are five substantial benefits of a customer self-service portal that will convince you to have your own.

1. Decreases Ticket Inflow

A well-crafted self-service portal is a relief for your customers and agents. As customers use it for problem-solving, the number of tickets reaching your support staff reduces by a large number. All basic issues are taken care of at the customers’ end, and agents only have to work on those requests, which a portal cannot handle. 

The ticket queue becomes manageable, and the workload of agents is reduced.

2. Reduces Support Costs

Self-service customer support is a form of advanced automation, and this certainly saves money for your business. Since the support staff’s workload becomes manageable, you don’t have to invest in expanding your team. A team with limited agents can manage serious customer concerns while customers handle basic issues independently. 

A one-time investment of creating a self-service platform and its regular maintenance is the only additional expense you will have to bear, which is way less than continuously hiring new agents for your support process.

3. Customer Support That Never Ever Sleeps

Customer self-service portals ensure that customer support is always accessible – 24x7x365.

Regardless of time or place, customers can use the portal to address their concerns at their convenience. Whether it’s 2 a.m or 8 p.m, the self-service portal is always at their disposal. 

While this means less waiting time and more convenience for customers, it also indicates that your agents will not have to face a large number of tickets right when they step into your office in the morning.

4. Increases Agent Productivity

With a self-help customer service portal, you will receive fewer support tickets that actually need human involvement. A majority of primary issues can be resolved at the customers’ end, ensuring that only serious or complex issues that require a more hands-on approach reach your agents. 

This means your support team can invest time attending to more pressing matters than resolving repetitive requests. The portal reduces the unnecessary workload of agents, allowing them to be more productive and result-focused. 

Read More: 10 Benefits of Knowledge Base You Cannot Ignore

Essential Components of a Customer Self Service Portal 

Now that we are aware of the benefits and relevance of customer self-service portals, let’s find out the different components that form these platforms. 

These components are critical for the success of a self-service platform. Let’s learn about them in detail here.

1. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

FAQs or Frequently Asked Questions are probably one of the oldest and most commonly used self-service channels that have been in practice for decades. By incorporating an optimized FAQ section into your support portal, you provide a familiar and time-tested self-service option that delights your customers to the core.

You can contact your support team and sales staff to learn about the common challenges faced by customers. Listen to recorded calls and go through previous conversations to understand the bottlenecks they frequently encounter. 

Use this information to create an FAQ page that covers all questions that customers commonly ask.

2. Knowledge Base Articles

While FAQs are like quick-fire resolutions for the most common questions, a knowledge base article is a more detailed section comprising in-depth information on a topic.

If you are planning a customer self-service portal, then creating well-researched knowledge base articles is a prerequisite. That’s because customers visit your portal not just to be greeted with surface-level information but to develop an in-depth understanding of a particular topic. 

Besides helping your customers, such knowledge base articles also assist agents in answering customer questions faster on emails, calls, or any other channel. And since both customers (who are opting for self-service mode) and agents refer to the same knowledge base for getting information, everyone is on the same page.

3. How-to Guides and Videos

Just like FAQs, “how-to” guides and videos have been in use for a long time. 

These guides and knowledge base videos are mainly to educate and train customers on a variety of How-to’s, such as: 

  • How to complete a particular task? 
  • How to use a feature? 
  • How to install a product? 
  • How to get a refund? and the like. 

How-to guides and videos are quite detailed. They consist of step-by-step instructions and demonstrations on how customers can accomplish a task, use a feature or make the most of a product or service.

4. Ticketing Forms

There are two aspects of a  self-help support portal. First, it allows customers to get answers to their questions on their own. Second, it also provides the option to raise tickets in case the portal doesn’t have the answer they are looking for. 

This is of immense help to customers as they don’t have to go from pillar to post in case their issues aren’t resolved. They can fill the ticket form, and the issue directly reaches your support team. Agents then work on it and get back to customers with a detailed response. 

The turnaround time is not as swift as the portal. Customers might have to wait for a day or two or maybe more, depending on the complexity of the issue. But adding ticketing forms is a reliable strategy that reassures customers that their issues will be resolved.

5. Chatbots

Automated chatbots have been around for quite some time, and gradually they are becoming a preferred channel for customer support. By deploying a chatbot within your customer self-service portal, you can provide world-class, state-of-the-art customer support that is super-fast and reliable. 

A self-service portal is designed to deliver quick responses. But you cannot ignore the fact that customers will have to spend at least a couple of minutes to get what they want. With a chatbot, the little effort and time that goes into finding information are reduced even more. 

By using advanced, AI-powered chatbots, you can also utilize several useful features like automatically transferring chats to specific departments, sharing relevant self-help articles, raising a ticket, and much more.

6. User Manuals

User guides or manuals are generally offered for technical guidance. These are great for assisting customers in resolving a technical issue or understanding a product or service’s technical aspects. 

For your self-service help center, a user manual is an excellent option that compliments FAQs, knowledge base articles, and chatbots. User manuals are normally aimed at providing an exact step-by-step process for using a tool, service, or resolving a technical issue. 

7. Help Documentation

While user manuals and user guides are predominantly used for technical issues, help documentation is known for providing the same output for software users.

It provides customers with a complete step-by-step process on how to use a software or app and combat the challenges coming in the way. Depending on the product/service you are selling, your online self-help portal can have help documentation to deliver a superior support experience to customers. 

Read More: 8 Steps to Creating Great End User Documentation

8. Online Community

It will be a big mistake if your customer self-service portal doesn’t incorporate an online community. Social media has brought a culture of constant interaction with fellow customers to understand a brand’s offerings better. It only makes sense that you provide customers with a similar experience in the self-help platform. 

Although knowledge base articles, FAQs, and chatbots, along with user manuals and help documentation, create a solid support system, online communities go one step ahead and provide superior support to customers.

In such online communities, customers can ask any question to thousands of other users of the same product/service and then get practical and instant solutions in return. 

How to Create a Customer Self-Service Portal?

And finally, it’s time to reveal the secret of how to create a practical and user-friendly customer self-service portal to delight your customers, make them feel more empowered and in control of your support process.

Let’s get started.

1. Set an Objective

This comes even before you start creating a knowledge base

You need to be crystal-clear about your objective and what you want to achieve with the knowledge base. You might have several reasons to create a self-help platform. Some of these can be:

  • A higher number of support tickets 
  • Increased workload on your support staff 
  • Dissatisfied customers 

Evaluate the situation you are in and, accordingly, take your next steps. 

2. Identify Your Target Audience & Understand Their Needs

The very first step of creating a self-service portal is understanding your target audience and decoding their needs. You should have a fair knowledge of their pain points and expectations to create a portal that best matches their needs. 

Often, marketing teams create personas of their target audience. You can consult with them for the same and create a persona of your target audience. 

While doing so, ask yourself a few questions like:

  • Where do most of my customers live?
  • Which device do they use for browsing?
  • What age group do they fall in?
  • Which medium do they prefer the most for resolving queries?
  • What are their most frequent questions?

Once you have answers to such basic questions, take a step forward, and determine the portal’s structure. 

3. Finalize the Structure of Your Self-Service Help Centre

This entire process of mapping out the structure is critical because it will determine the portal’s overall look and feel. Based on your customers’ requirements, decide the components to be included in the portal.

For example, if your target audience is not technically inclined, then FAQs and knowledge base articles should work well. If you want the portal to be a good combination of everything, you can add chatbots, guides, and documentation too for customers who face complex issues while using your products. 

In the mapping process, you will need to finalize what sections will be displayed on the first fold, the categories, the components, and the overall presentation of the customer self-service portal.

Besides the framework and the mapping, find out the top topics that you need to write, the subjects you will focus on, and the level of expertise you need to showcase.

Step into your customers’ shoes and decide what exactly the portal should display and how it should look like. 

For example, HighQ’s customer support portal is well-structured and easy to navigate. It has an attractive home page, a table of contents, and a lot of information divided into different sections and subsections. 

HelpQ knowledge management example

4. Deploy A Robust, Dependable Platform

Once your customer self-service portal’s structure and framework have been finalized and determined, then comes the most important part: choosing a technical platform to give a beautiful shape to your self-service center.

While there is no dearth of customer portal software, selecting the right one is a challenge. Before you make the call, ensure that the tool you pick has the following features: 

  • Ready-to-use templates
  • Easy editing options
  • Branding and customization features
  • Collaboration and access control
  • Enterprise-grade security
  • Smart, AI-powered reports
  • Google-like search, and many more

These are some of the key features that a decent knowledge base software must have. Creating a self-service portal becomes much easier when you have the support of the right knowledge management tool.

5. Get Obsessed With Design Elements

Remember that your online self-service help center will be competing with billions of portals that are live right at this moment. Although the knowledge shared will benefit only your customers and employees, yet the design has to be world-class to give visitors a top-notch experience. 

Decide on the color scheme, fonts, icons, logo, and other design elements based on the best practices in your domain and the preferences of your target audience. 

For example, if knowledge base articles are going to be the major self-service options for your customers, then a light background is preferable since it helps in reading.

If How to Videos are the #1 choice for your customers, then design a background that displays the videos prominently, and your customers can scan through all the videos in a glance. 

Branding in customer portal software

Watch this video to explore more about the design aspect of a self-help platform. 

6. Focus on Content Quality

At this point in time, you have understood your target audience, their pain points and accordingly designed and deployed a structure for customer self-service. 

Now comes the most important part: Content.

Content forms the core of your self-service system, including knowledge base articles, FAQs, chatbots, user manuals, and documentation. Its quality and relevance determine how frequently customers will use the portal. 

That’s why you need to get the best team on board who can work with full dedication to maintain the content’s uniqueness, relevance, and accuracy. Even after selecting the best design and best platform, if your content is poorly written with incomplete information and lots of errors, then the whole objective of creating a self-service help center fails. 

Create a workflow system to ensure that content gets thoroughly reviewed before going live. You can allow writers and editors to set article status as – Draft, In Progress, Ready for Review, Published, or a custom status where they can ask for assistance from colleagues and publish error-free content. 

7. Optimize for SEO

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the digital marketing stream that focuses on your Google search visibility. And for driving traffic to your self-service portal, focusing on SEO is crucial. 

Why you may ask.

The reason is that your customers can be searching for solutions on Google as well. Instead of other articles popping up before them, it’s better that your own self-curated and conceptualized knowledge base articles and user manuals appear in front of them.

Besides helping customers find your portal quickly, adopting SEO techniques is also fruitful in attracting prospects to your brand. As the portal pops up in the first few search results, prospects who may be searching for the relevant keywords can also visit it and get familiar with your business. 

SEO basics such as meta-title, meta-description, meta-keywords, alt-text (for images), headlines, etc. should be optimized for every piece of content you post on your self-help platform. 

Read More: The Ultimate Knowledge Base SEO Guide for 2021

8. Finalize The Roles, Responsibilities & Access Rights

Creating and deploying a customer self-service portal and knowledge base is not enough. You also need to make sure that the right people are in charge of the portal. Anyone accessing the portal and editing the content can impact the content’s quality. 

To streamline the process, you can create a team and finalize each team member’s roles and permissions. For example, subject matter experts can be made responsible for creating articles from scratch, and those with more experience can take care of the editing and fact-checking part. 

While it boosts collaboration and streamlines work, it also increases data security. That’s because only limited authorized individuals have the right to access and change the content.

Assign roles to the users in a Training documentation

9. Connect With Chat, Ticketing, & Survey Tools

Although you are creating a self-service platform, it’s advisable to offer every kind of help customers seek. For example, they should be able to chat with an operator,  get instant answers via a chatbot, or raise a ticket – all from a single portal. 

Installing chat in your portal allows customers to talk to an operator and get instant help. If you add ticket forms to the portal, it gets easy for customers to raise a ticket for unanswered questions. The ticket reaches your support team, and customers are conveyed the time it would take to provide the resolution. 

You can also integrate the portal with survey tools to launch customer satisfaction, pop-up, and scored surveys. This is a great way to capture customer feedback and get a peek into how happy or disappointed they are with the experience.

10. Analyze, Review, & Update

It’s very critical to deploy a process to update your portal right from day one. 

As your business launches new products, tools, and services, and makes old products or features out of service, you will need to keep adding and modifying information within your self-help platform. This is a very critical step to make your self-help customer support actually work.

If your customers and prospects are given old, outdated information, then it kills the very purpose of creating a knowledge base. You need to constantly update the information to keep self-service relevant for customers. 

Besides, there might be articles that customers do not find helpful, keywords that don’t yield the right results and links that are no more active. This data needs to be tapped and acted upon to improve your self-service platform, and by that extension, the experience customers receive. 

Knowledge base reports help you capture and analyze such data. Watch this video to learn more about how they work. 


Note of caution: If you don’t deploy such a process to edit/add/delete information, then your self-help customer support process can backfire.


Win Customers With Seamless Self-Service

This entire ideology of self-help is based on the notion that customers want to be in control. They should be able to get the desired assistance as and when required, without having to wait on a call for hours or expecting a human being to assist. 

A customer self-service center is the need of the hour. To create one, start by identifying customers’ expectations and pain points, getting the right tool, and building quality and helpful content.  

Make information-gathering and problem-solving a breeze by delivering seamless self-service experiences.

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About the author

Brayn Wills

Brayn is a knowledge management expert. He has been published in CustomerThink, PointVisible and Apruve. As a customer support specialist at ProProfs, Brayn has been instrumental in building a robust knowledge base and documents that help support executives keep every customer delighted. You can catch up with Brayn on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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